Michael Hibblen

News Director

Michael Hibblen is the News Director for UA Little Rock Public Radio. He oversees local news coverage for KUAR, working with the staff to plan story ideas, edit news copy, and ensure accuracy and fairness in reporting. Hibblen has been a regular panelist and fill-in host on Arkansas PBS' Arkansas Week, where journalists and newsmakers discuss the top issues facing the state.

In March 2019, he  was named one of 53 fellows selected to participate in the Editorial Integrity and Leadership Initiative at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The intensive 100-day training program for newsroom leaders from across the country was funded by a $1 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It involved a week of training that August at the Phoenix campus, working regularly with a coach and smaller group remotely, then returning to give a final presentation and graduate in January. The group began meeting again online to discuss challenges and issues facing newsrooms as COVID-19 began spreading across the nation.

A native of North Little Rock, Hibblen started in radio in 1988, spending his first five years as a DJ for music stations in central and northeast Arkansas. After a 1993 internship at the C-SPAN Cable Network in Washington, DC, he transitioned to news, working for commercial radio stations KARN in Little Rock, WRVA in Richmond, Virginia and WIOD in Miami, Florida. In 2000, Hibblen became a nationally-heard, Miami-based radio reporter for CBS News, covering major stories in the region, including the anthrax attack at a tabloid publisher, an international custody fight over Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez, and the 2000 presidential election recount. He was hired by The Miami Herald in 2003 when the newspaper partnered with NPR station WLRN to provide local news. Hibblen initially worked as a morning news anchor and reporter, later became the department's editor, then assistant news director. He also wrote frequently for the newspaper.

Hibblen returned home to Arkansas in 2009 to work for KUAR. At that time he resumed taking classes at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to finish his Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication, graduating in May 2013. Hibblen also enjoys researching radio and railroad history in the state and is the author of Rock Island Railroad in Arkansas, which was published by Arcadia Publishing in April 2017. He has also been involed in the preservation of the railroad's depot in the City of Perry, West of Little Rock. Hibblen maintains a personal website with more on his career and outside interests at www.hibblenradio.com.

Phone: 501-683-7386

Email: michael@kuar.org

Ways to Connect

Gov. Asa Hutchinson showing a face mask with the logo for Oaklawn while noting Saturday was Derby Day 2020 at the Hot Springs racetrack.
Governor's Office / YouTube

The death toll from COVID-19 in Arkansas has risen to 73, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Saturday. Of the nine new deaths since Friday, two were state prison inmates from the Cummins Unit, which has been hard hit during the outbreak.

Dr. Nate Smith, secretary of the state Department of Health, said both men had been hospitalized, were in their 60s and had underlying health conditions. One of the prisoners had been on a ventilator.

Arkansas House Speaker Matthew Shepherd during a brief speech Friday after being elected to another term leading the House.
Arkansas Citizens Access Network

Arkansas House Speaker Matthew Shepherd (R-El Dorado) was reelected Friday to another two-year term leading the chamber. Representatives unanimously showed their support for Shepherd during a voice vote after formally adjourning the biennial fiscal session of legislature. He was unopposed.

Shepherd became a state representative in 2011 and was first elected speaker in 2018. The next term will begin next January when lawmakers convene for the 93rd General Assembly.

Cummins Unit Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal lawsuit accuses Arkansas of violating the constitutional and legal rights of prison inmates by not taking adequate steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The class-action complaint was filed Tuesday on behalf of 11 inmates at state prisons, including three at the Cummins Unit in southeast Arkansas, where 670 inmates have tested positive.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (left) listens Sunday as Department of Corrections Director Dexter Payne discusses the outbreak at the Cummins Unit in southeast Arkansas.
Governor's Office / YouTube

The number of coronavirus deaths in Arkansas increased to 40 on Sunday, including – for the first time – a health care worker.

Dr. Nate Smith, secretary of the Department of Health, said it was someone who worked at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff and was associated with the first outbreak in the state. Another death announced Sunday involved a nursing home resident, Smith said. He did not offer any additional details, other than to say both were under the age of 65.

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration Director of Budget Jake Bleed (left) and Education Secretary Johnny Key at the Joint Budget Committee meeting Wednesday.
Arkansas Citizens Access Network

Legislative leaders expect to wrap up the biennial fiscal session of the Arkansas General Assembly on Thursday. The House and Senate gave initial approval Wednesday to identical versions of the $5.8 billion Revenue Stabilization Act for the budget year that begins in July.

Lawmakers had been pressured to complete the session as quickly as possible given the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak. Fiscal sessions typically last at least a month, but Thursday will be the ninth day for this one.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas continues to increase, officials announced Monday that schools in the state will remain closed for onsite instruction through the end of the school year.

Alternative forms of education will continue in the coming weeks online and through Arkansas PBS, said Education Secretary Johnny Key. Speaking to reporters at the state Capitol, he urged educators not to attempt to "replicate the classroom experience," and to be flexible with time limits for assignments.

Nate Smith COVID-19 Asa Hutchinson
Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas was up to 384 positive cases of coronavirus as of 5 p.m. Friday, according to the state Department of Health. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during an afternoon press briefing that projections suggest that number could increase to 2,000 cases by next weekend and 3,500 in two weeks.

"This is modeling that’s based upon what’s happened in other states, what the experts tell us. It doesn’t mean it has to happen in Arkansas, but those are the kinds of projections that we’re trying to anticipate," Hutchinson said.

Nate Smith COVID-19
Governor's Office / YouTube

Seeming frustrated by reports that some people in Arkansas are not abiding by social distancing recommendations, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Wednesday he is issuing a directive that will give law enforcement the power to enforce limits on gatherings.

The state has recommended people avoid indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people and keep a distance of six feet between one another during the current health crisis.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Arkansas has experienced its first deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday that two people had died, while the number of positive cases in the state has risen to 218. Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith would not provide details on how the two people who died might have acquired the virus, but said neither had traveled out of state recently and neither were from nursing homes.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (at the podium) announcing Sunday that the number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas had risen to 165.
Governor's Office / YouTube

165 people in Arkansas have tested positive for COVID-19, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Sunday, an increase of 47 cases from Saturday. With testing being expanded this week, officials are warning the number will continue to rise.

44 of the cases involved people at three nursing homes in the state, according to Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith. Seniors and people with underlying health conditions are most at risk from the virus.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

The number of coronavirus cases in Arkansas has risen to 62, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday. That included people in nine counties that have not previously had positive cases.

All but one previous case were limited to people who had traveled outside of the state or had contact with those people. Without providing specific numbers, Hutchinson said more people are contracting the virus in-state.

Mike Preston
Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas has not had a new positive case of COVID-19 reported over the last 24 hours, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced mid-morning Tuesday. It's the first day since state officials began conducting daily briefings last Wednesday that there has not been an uptick in diagnosed cases, with the number standing at 22.

But with testing for the virus ramping up, he expects the number will rise.

COVID-19 Education Secretary Johnny Key
Governor's Office / YouTube

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is ordering all Arkansas schools to be closed starting Tuesday, continuing through the end of the week, to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Speaking Sunday alongside health and education officials, he also announced four new cases have been confirmed, bringing the total in the state to 16. 

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission is preparing to consider whether to renew licenses for the state’s dispensaries and growers. During Wednesday’s regular commission meeting, renewal meetings are to be scheduled.

Commissioners must decide by the end of April which licenses will be renewed for the next fiscal year. The state constitutional amendment approved by Arkansas voters in 2016 calls for the licenses to be renewed annually.

Arkansas Department of Health Director Nathaniel Smith and Gov. Asa Hutchinson speak to reporters Wednesday about the first presumptive case of the coronavirus reported in the state.
Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas now has its first presumptive case of the coronavirus. Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the head of the state Department of Health announced Wednesday the person is from the Pine Bluff area and is in isolation at a hospital. They said the case is likely not part of a widespread outbreak 

National Association of Black Veterans state commander Lisa  Moss photographs the historical marker for Frank Moore that unveiled Friday at Little Rock National Cemetery. Elaine massacre Elaine 12 twelve
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A historical marker was unveiled Friday at Little Rock National Cemetery noting where a black sharecropper is buried who helped bring a labor union to Phillips County in eastern Arkansas, leading to what would be the bloodiest racial uprising in state history. Frank Moore, a veteran of World War I, would be convicted for his alleged role in the deaths of five white men, and was later the namesake of a precedent-setting case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court that led to his release.

Polling location vote here
Michael HIbblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Democrats coalesced behind Joe Biden in his bid for president on Tuesday. Final results from the Secretary of State’s office show he won by a nearly two-to-one margin over second place finisher Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Arkansas Democratic Primary Results (100% of precincts reporting):

Joe Biden: 40.5
Bernie Sanders: 22.4
Michael Bloomberg: 16.7
Elizabeth Warren: 10.0

Rock Island
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An $880,000 federal grant is being awarded to Pulaski County to build part of a pedestrian and bicycling path that will link Little Rock and Hot Springs. The Southwest Trail will mostly be constructed on two former railroad right-of-ways.

Amy Klobuchar
Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Democratic presidential candidates are hoping to rally momentum in Arkansas during the final week before the state takes part in Super Tuesday's primary election.

On Monday, Michael Bloomberg’s campaign said the former New York City mayor will return to Arkansas on Thursday to speak at a rally in Bentonville. The announcement comes one day after Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota spoke to an enthusiastic crowd in central Arkansas.

Amy Klobuchar
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar is returning to Arkansas this weekend. The Minnesota senator is scheduled to speak at a rally Sunday beginning at 3:30 p.m. at the Maumelle Event Center.

It comes just over a week before Arkansas will be among 14 states taking part in primary elections that could give a solid boost to a candidate in the Democratic race.

marijuana
npr.org

Nine months after Arkansas’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened for business, the first facility in Little Rock has been approved to begin operations.

Frederick Love Fred
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

With less than a month before Arkansas Democrats vote in the presidential primary, the state is getting more attention from the candidates’ campaigns. Arkansas is one of 14 states that will be taking part in Super Tuesday on March 3, with early voting to begin Feb. 18.

Oaklawn Racing & Gaming

Sunday was the first time patrons of Arkansas casinos have been allowed to wager on the outcome of the Super Bowl. Bets placed on the NFL championship game exceeded $705,000, according to data released Tuesday by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Sports wagering was included as part of an amendment approved by voters in 2018. Three casinos are now in operation in the state, while a legal challenge is pending over the fourth casino, which will be built in Pope County.

Casino casinos Saracen Casino Resort full Caption: Gamblers enjoying the modern slot machines at the Saracen Annex in Pine Bluff earlier this month. Casino gaming made its debut in Arkansas in 2019.
Arkansas Business

As gambling is expanding in Arkansas, the entities operating the three full-fledged casinos open so far are tracking every aspect of what their customers are doing to find what games have the broadest appeal and target the most ideal demographics.

Alexander Beeser Lyon College beer fermentation
Lyon College

Lyon College in Batesville, Ark. is introducing a new course for students this Spring: beer fermentation. The class, a liberal arts hybrid laboratory offered to students 21 years and older, is taught by biology professor Dr. Alexander Beeser. He saw a need to offer more opportunities to inspire students to take science classes, beyond the credits needed for graduation.

As the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump gets underway in the U.S. Senate, Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas said he and his colleagues recognize the gravity of the situation. The Republican also said he wouldn’t be surprised if the chamber eventually votes to allow witnesses to testify

The state’s senior senator spoke with KUAR News about the impeachment trial, sharing his thoughts and expectations.

MICHAEL HIBBLEN: First off, how do you feel as this begins given everything that has happened leading up to this in the House and now coming to the Senate?

Michael Bloomberg
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg returned to Arkansas Monday, the second time he has visited the state since announcing he was running for the nation's highest office. The former New York City mayor walked near the front of Little Rock’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. parade, surrounded by supporters wearing "I Like Mike" shirts and waving signs.

A women’s suffrage rally on the steps of the Arkansas state Capitol in 1917 celebrating passage of a bill to allow Arkansas women to vote in primary elections. Gov. Charles Brough can be seen standing in the front row, wearing a black tie and white jacket
Encyclopedia of Arkansas

An event taking place Friday in Helena will delve into the role Arkansas played in helping women get the right to vote in the U.S. The 19th Amendment was adopted in 1920 and the Delta Cultural Center is marking the 100th anniversary with a discussion of the women’s suffrage movement in the state.

Center Curator Drew Ulrich says it’s a complex history that eventually led to Arkansas ratifying the federal amendment. But, as was the case elsewhere in the country, there were racial and economic overtones.

Little Rock Police Officer Charles Starks shooting 30-year-old Bradley Blackshire who was in a stolen car on Feb. 22, 2019.
Little Rock Police Department

A Pulaski County circuit judge has ruled a Little Rock police officer who shot and killed a suspect in a stolen car should not have been fired for his actions. In a written opinion issued Thursday, Judge Timothy Fox said a 30-day suspension was "clearly warranted" and a reduction in pay to that of an entry-level officer was "appropriate," but that Starks didn't deserve any additional penalties.

NEA Full Spectrum More than $25 million has been spent by Arkansas patients to buy medical marijuana so far this year, according to the state.
Johnathan Reaves / KASU News

Arkansans have spent $25.7 million for medical marijuana since the state’s first dispensary opened its doors in May, the Department of Finance and Administration reported Tuesday. The sales figure was released on the eve of the expected opening of the state’s 14th dispensary on Wednesday.

"We are really experiencing a busy December," said department spokesman Scott Hardin.

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